The Making of United States International Economic Policy: Principles, Problems, and Proposals for Reform

By Stephen D. Cohen | Go to book overview

3 The Executive Branch

Form is substance. A property organized decision-making process does not guarantee decisions of high quality, but you are certain to have uneven decisions without an orderly process.

-- Donald H. Rumsfeld

A full appreciation of the functioning of the international economic policymaking system's inner level of activity--by analogy, its brain waves and personality--begins with an understanding of the system's mechanical parts--who and what are charged with keeping it up and running. This chapter describes the responsible departments and agencies in the executive branch, the main U.S. government locus of international economic data gathering, analysis, option enumeration, and policy implementation. Description is just a first step, however. That which can be gleaned from published mission statements and organization charts of executive branch entities provides only limited insight into the often subtle rhythms, nuances, and quirks of the decision-making process. Constantly shifting organizational configurations, the separation of powers within the U.S. government, the struggle for bureaucratic influence, new international economic issues where agency jurisdiction is unclear, and the syndrome of the cult of personality are the major reasons why considerable attention must be paid to the informal and fluid dimensions of organizational process.

The executive branch is merely the most visible of the three major constituencies in the formulation and administration of U.S. international economic policy. Subsequent chapters deal with the other two key players: Congress and the private sector. Even a recognition of all the power centers molding policy substance provides only the first layer of comprehending the decision-making proc

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